Feature: Refugees narrate stories through Athens art exhibition

Source: Xinhua| 2017-11-24 02:32:05|Editor: yan
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by Maria Spiliopoulou

ATHENS, Nov. 23 (Xinhua) -- Twenty refugees living in Greece are the protagonists of an art exhibition which opened on Wednesday evening in Athens.

Through their photographic portraits and personal narratives recorded in a project entitled "Face Forward... into my home," Bibiche from Congo, Ali and Ghassan from Syria and other 17 people who were forced to leave their homelands and are now rebuilding their life in Greece, are talking about pain, agony, despair, strength and hope.

Participants joined storytelling workshops at the National Museum of Contemporary Art and were invited to share feelings, memories, hopes and aspirations. With the support of artists, they built their autobiographical stories which were accompanied by photographic portraits depicting their daily life in Athens.

"It is not entirely an art exhibition, but above all an expression of humanity. It concerns human relations and respect of very significant values and principles which are necessary if we wish to talk about art and culture and humanism," Katerina Koskina, the museum's director, told a press briefing.

"Long live to exchange and creativity so that we can show faces, individuals and stories," UNHCR's representative in Greece Philippe Leclerc added.

Before introducing herself and her story, 33-year-old Bibiche, asked people not to forget the ones left behind in troubled zones, including her husband.

"I would like to start by dedicating a moment to the people who are currently sold as slaves in Libya. I am constantly thinking about this issue," she said.

"I would like to send a message to all countries across the globe, and in particular European countries, to show solidarity and embrace us, because what is now happening to us could happen also to other countries," said Ghassan, 59, from Syria.

Ali, 40, from Syria had not visited a museum before taking part in the project. He left his wife and two daughters, aged six and four, back home, hoping to build a new home in Europe and bring them to safety. He discovered that through art he could express his fears, hopes and dreams.

"The works reflect what each one of us holds inside. However, I saw paintings that I had not created, yet they expressed my thoughts and feelings. I saw in some images all the things I wanted to say," he told Xinhua.

Participants in the project were beneficiaries of the Estia (Emergency Support to Integration and Accommodation) program which provides accommodation in hotels and apartments as well as cash assistance to thousands of asylum seekers and refugees in Greece.

Estia which means "home" in Greek is run by UNHCR and funded by the European Commission. Since November 2015 about 50,000 people have benefited from the program.

The exhibition runs until Jan. 31, 2018.